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Review of International Handbook of Media Literacy Education (2017), edited by De Abreu, Mihailidis, Lee, Melki, and McDougall

Reviewed by Drew Virtue

Publication Details

 OLOR Series:  ROLE Reviews
 Author(s):  Drew Virtue
 Original Publication Date:  15 March 2020


Publication Note

This review was originally published in Research in Online Literacy, vol. 3, no. 1 (2020).

Resource Contents

Review of International Handbook of Media Literacy Education  

The International Handbook of Media Literacy Education offers a broad perspective of media literacy as it relates to media, education, and daily life. The edited collection contains 26 chapters that are organized into five sections: Educational Interventions; Safeguarding/Data and On-line Privacy; Engagement in Civic Life; Media, Creativity, and Production; and Digital Media Literacy. Within the opening pages, the editors describe how the purpose of the collection is to examine “literacy practices needed to engage in meaningful participation in digital culture” (p. xi), which I believe leads to the greatest strength and weakness of the collection. In one sense, the work is so extensive that readers may have trouble relating to a number of the chapters in the book. However, those same chapters offer such a broad perspective that readers are bound to find new ways of looking at media literacy. For example, the editors were very deliberate in creating a global focus for this work and include authors who hail from countries around the world. Consequently, the diverse group of writers help illustrate a keen sense of how culture also plays into the relationships between media, education, and people—an astounding feat to achieve within a singular work.

In addition to its global scope, the edited collection also showcases work at the forefront of analyzing media in relation to newer technologies. The chapter entitled, “Are We Citizen Scientists, Citizen Sensors or Something Else Entirely?,” showcases some of the unique scholarship that, in this case, highlights media and its intersections with the internet of things. Within the chapter, authors D’Ignazio and Zuckerman “speculate that popular sensors, deployed at the individual scale in mobile phones or the city scale in smart cities, hold promise for a new informational landscape for citizens to monitor their world and mobilize their communities when threatened” (p. 193). By looking at the growing internet of things evolution, the authors construct five “sensing paradigms” (Smart Cities, Sensor Journalism, Crowdsourced Journalism, Citizen Sensing, and Citizen Science) that highlight how new sensor technologies could potentially lead to citizenry engagement. However, the authors include two case studies, the mapping of radiation by citizens in Japan and the measuring of water quality in an experimental sensor journalism module in a college course, to investigate whether these new sensor technologies will lead to sustained engagement and the potential dilemmas that can occur in citizen engagement. Ultimately, while the authors acknowledge the potential of sensor technologies, they offer a critical perspective of why the majority of everyday citizens will not consistently take part in these types of citizen engagement. This chapter demonstrates the novel type of research occurring among media literacies and highlights the timely nature of the edited collection.

Based on my own scholarly interests, I especially gravitated towards the chapters included in the section, Digital Media Literacy. Throughout these chapters, the topics range from how digital media function in communities, factor into media addiction, change dynamics within families, affect the spread of news in national conflicts, and contribute to a new kind of reporting to produce social change. While these descriptions merely skim the surface of this section, a closer look at some of the content shows the types of analysis throughout the edited collection. For example, in the chapter, “From ‘Being Tethered’ to ‘Going Unplugged’,” Roman Gerodimos offers a nuanced perspective on youth and how social media affects socialization. Rather than take a one-dimensional approach, Gerodimos discusses how the ways in which social and digital media affect people are “conditional on a number of antecedent factors, and in particular social skills and mental health” (p. 341). Going even further, Gerodimos argues that the prevalence of digital media has made it so difficult for “citizens/consumers to find themselves in a truly public sphere, and equally difficult to withdraw to a truly private one, it seems that media have created a third space that may include physical co-presence, withdrawal to the private and social interaction, but it is built around the perceived preferences, choice and convenience of the individual” (p. 344). Observations like this one permeate the edited collection and show how these authors do well to complicate ideas related to digital media literacy.

In looking at the main objective of the collection, the introduction seems to frame it best by stating how media literacy “focuses on the interaction between new developments in information and communication technologies, on one hand, and the social and communal processes, human interests and practices, and political, economic and cultural forces that shape and are shaped by the visible and invisible daily practices of these new media technologies” (pp. 10-11). While this may be a lot to unpack, it highlights the ambitious goals of the editors and how versatile this book can be for scholars. While readers may benefit from a tacit knowledge of media literacy, the chapters often provide enough context for readers who are just beginning to study it. Overall, I would highly recommend the International Handbook of Media Literacy Education. Readers may not gain something from every chapter; however, readers who are interested in media literacy, even from a peripheral sense, will learn something new. Most importantly, the global scope of the authors, as well as the studies included in the chapters, helps readers rethink ideas about media literacies as they relate to different cultures—which can offer a rich, new way of educating readers on the possibilities of media literacy education.


Image of book's coverInternational Handbook of Media Literacy Education

Belinha S. De Abreu, Paul Mihailidis, Alice Y.L. Lee, Jad Melki, and Julian McDougall (Eds.). 2017. New York: Routledge. [ISBN 978-1-138-64550-9. 415 pages, including index. USD$125.00 (softcover)].

About the Reviewer

Drew Virtue is an associate professor at Western Carolina University. His research interests examine the intersection of digital literacies, pedagogy, and issues of power and privacy. His current work measures students’ web literacy competencies and contextualizes it with what it means to be digitally literate.

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